Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip

Artist: Hi-TekTitle: Hi-Teknology 2: The ChipRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Slav Kandyba

It's hard to find fault with Hi-Tek. Whether it's his Cincinnati upbringing that enabled him to have a unique and organic sound, his genuine love for music, or the high-caliber emcees and singers he has collaborated with over the years; Hi-Tek is one of the best in the game today and probably tomorrow, hands down. The proof is in the 15 solid tracks that comprise Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip (Om/Babygrande), simply another notch on the Aftermath staff producer's heavyweight belt.

Since his debut solo offering, Hi-Teknology, Tony Cottrell had pretty much ditched the confines of conscious Hip-Hop (Reflection Eternal, Black Star) for the greener pastures, finding his beats beneath the vocals of the likes of Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. While his paychecks may have gotten fatter as result, it's clear he has preserved his creative charge to make music for purists as well as the mainstream, and everyone in between. Hi-Teknology 2 is a better-crafted, more refined version its first installment.

From the sonic perspective, the best track on the album is "Keep It Moving," a string and jazz percussion-laden song featuring thoughtful verses from Q-Tip and Kurupt. Conceptually and lyrically, "Music For Life" is the one to check for, as it features Nas narrating his musical journey and Hi-Tek professing his love for the art form. On "Where It Started (N.Y.),"Jadakiss, Papoose, Raekwon and Talib Kweli toast the ins-and-outs of their hometown over a classic Hi-Tek number, a down tempo beat with melodic strings. Less successful are collaborations with Game ("1-800-Homicide") and Busta Rhymes ("March"), and that's only because the two emcees apply their normal repertoire to an otherwise uniquely crafted product.

Overall, Hi-Teknology 2 is an elite exhibition of Hi-Tek's production virtuosity. Much like the late J Dilla, Just Blaze and Kanye, he manages to achieve something other producers have trouble doing: creating a mood without sounding redundant. Ultimately, it's that type of music-making that will stand the test of time, so Hi-Tek is on the right track.